For a Whole Month, Pornhub Is Streaming Acclaimed Documentary 'Shakedown' for Free

Leilah Weinraub's stunning ode to the black lesbian strip club… and a lost time

It's Women's History Month! And as always, Pornhub has managed to outfox the foxes. Throughout the month of March, everybody's favorite smut conglomerate will be the sole streaming home to Shakedown (SFW link), the documentary by filmmaker and conceptual artist Leilah Weinraub.

Weinraub spent 15 years gathering 400 hours of footage for the film, which revolves around Shakedown, a black lesbian-owned and -operated strip club in Los Angeles. The early aughts, captured so viscerally here, set the stage for ambient underground parties thrown by and for African American lesbian women, replete with go-go dancing and stripteases, performed for the female gaze. It was lubricated by an all-cash economy run by black women—something we don't see much on screen.

The club's organizers and performers, the Shakedown Angels, receive brutally intimate attention. They include the transgender woman Mahogany, who was organizing queer strip gatherings for non-straight folks back in the '80s. Inspired by her, Ronnie Ron created, produced and promoted parties; other faces include beloved dancer Egypt and Shakedown "queen" Jazmyne. 

Weinraub worked at Shakedown as a "video lady" in the early 2000s, and she makes what feels like a conscious decision to push away the neutrality that characterizes documentary filmmaking. She is in it, entangled physically and emotionally in the club's fate.

Thus, her position is intimate and collaborative, exposing female desire in ways that feel brutally raw. It feels like a mourning friend's efforts to encapsulate something precious, running too fast through her fingers. Impressionistic cinematography bleeds through cameras from the time.

Shakedown, the film, is hip-hop, feminine, angry, sexy, endangered; but also nostalgic and tender, preserving an artifact in space/time that we can recognize. Flyers and A/V recordings, used by the club for promotional purposes, are immortalized here. Every moment feels subversive and vulnerable.

The documentary lasts up to the night the LAPD shut the whole scene down, experienced as if in memory.

"Shakedown explores themes of race, class, currency and identity through the lens of Weinraub's boundary-breaking vision," says Pornhub vp Corey Price. "Here at Pornhub, we're invested in celebrating artists and visionaries like Leilah and in sharing diverse narratives of human pleasure and sexuality. We are so excited to share her work with a wider public audience for the very first time."

This marks Pornhub's first non-adult film release. It's also the first public release of Shakedown anywhere—it has only screened for small audiences at film festivals and art galleries. It will be freely available to watch for the whole month of March.

Pornhub and Weinraub will also host a series of live Q&As throughout the month, built on a concept Weinraub created called "alone together." The chats will simulate the experience of watching the film as a community, even if you're physically alone.

Watch Shakedown here (turn AdBlock off or it won't work!), and check out the live chat calendar at the same link. The first scheduled chat takes place this Saturday, March 7, from noon to 1pm PST.

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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